In early December, Hillary Clinton appeared on The Today Show to read aloud her never-used 2016 victory speech. The scene was bizarre, with Clinton tearing up as she read in present tense about becoming the first woman president, something that in real life did not happen. She then layered on another alternate reality, one in which President Hillary traveled back in time to tell her dead mother, “Your daughter will grow up and become the president of the United States.” She glowed, hearing applause that never happened.
The unreality of it all was leavened somewhat by the revelation that Hillary is selling a video “masterclass” on resilience, of which the speech is somehow an example. While this is just another Clinton grift, like selling a Bill and Hillary Bass-o-Matic, it is unprecedented for its reanimation of a Democratic loser like Hillary. You have to use Google to check whether Al Gore and Michael Dukakis are still alive, and even an attention hound like John Kerry pretends his own presidential wipeout never even happened. A good rule of thumb is to usher your losers off stage (or make them ambassadors). Instead, Hillary was on the flagship Today Show, not a late-night infomercial where garbage like a “masterclass” in resilience is usually peddled.
But Hillary’s delusion is not hers alone. After a second glass of Chardonnay, the faithful will insist Hillary did win the popular vote, which counts as actually winning by Clinton’s math. They’ll tell you Hillary did not win only because Trump cheated or the Russians helped.
The Democrats and the media so believed Trump did not actually win that they spent his entire term in office trying to negate him, impeach him, prosecute him, or just magically wish him away with a fan-fiction interpretation of the 25th Amendment that presupposed Mike Pence was more evil then they were. The high point of the delusion was Russiagate, a saga entirely made-to-order by Clinton and fluffed by the media. It’s one thing to self-righteously say “Not my president” (one MSM pundit added an asterisk to the word “president”when referring to Trump), but it is delusional to say “he can’t be yours, either.”
Granting Hillary a pass for using her delusion to sell merch, one would have hoped the whole thing would have gone away with the election of Joe Biden. Democrats, you won! And you got the House! You can right all wrongs!
Instead, the delusions continue, as the entire party seems in the grip of political Alzheimer’s. One delusion is that Trump will be pre-defeated ahead of 2024 by…something. This has been kicking around since Trump won in 2016, the idea that he’ll soon go to jail over taxes, property valuations in New York, or be brought down by one of his alleged lady victims successfully suing him. Sure, the IRS has had Trump’s taxes for decades, there is at worst a civil penalty in property-valuation tomfoolery, and all those women only seem to drag the Democrats deeper into the mud of hypocrisy as we’re told to believe all women except those who accuse Uncle Joe of getting a little handsy. Dems, if this is your best, your best won’t do.
Nah, that stuff is just chum in the water while the Grand Illusion is tweaked. This is a dramatic statement that democracy is dying in America and only defeating Trump (again, once was not enough) will save it. It is a big ask of a weary voting block because a) it is untrue, b) the only evidence for it lies in a made-up retelling of the Capitol riot, and c) the Democrats won in 2020 in an election, which strongly suggests democracy did its job. The rebuttal that January 6 was just a rehearsal is fact-free, and, after all, real Nazis only needed one crack at burning down the Reichstag.
One can find examples of the delusion almost by throwing darts, but a concise one is MSNBC meat puppet Brian “Lyin’” Williams’s farewell address. He said,
I will wake up tomorrow in the America of the year 2021, a nation unrecognizable to those who came before us and fought to protect it, which is what you must do now. They’ve decided to burn it all down with us inside… But the darkness on the edge of town has spread to the main roads and highways and neighborhoods… Grown men and women who swore an oath to our Constitution, elected by their constituents, possessing the kinds of college degrees I could only dream of, have decided to join the mob.
If you haven’t guessed it, Williams is referring to the delusion that the Capitol riot was a seminal event in American history. Williams, like others, seems to believe that Hillary won in 2016, that the Trump years saw America held prisoner, and that Trump spun up a mob on January 6 to overturn the election and remain in the White House as dictator. That none of that happened, and in fact could never have happened, matters not if you believe in it hard enough.
Williams is far from alone. “Democracy will be on trial in 2024,” the Atlantic’s Barton Gellman writes. “American democracy is tottering,” warns Vox. “Can American democracy escape the doom loop?” says one Salon piece. “If America really surrenders to fascism, then what?” asks another. “If Merrick Garland Doesn’t Charge Trump and His Coup Plotters, Our Democracy Is Toast,” says the Daily Beast. “Are we doomed?” writes the once-sentient George Packer, imagining “A blue militia sacks Trump National Golf Club at Bedminster; a red militia storms Oberlin College. The new president takes power in a state of siege.”
Google as many examples as you want; they are as common as pills. Charles Blow in the New York Times seems to take the prize for hysteria in an article headlined, “We’re Edging Closer to Civil War.” Blow claims “this war won’t be only about the subjugation of black people but also about the subjugation of all who challenge the white racist patriarchy. It will seek to push back against all the ‘others’: black people, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ people and, yes, women, particularly liberal ones.”
The democracy-dies-in-darkness delusion appears to be the centerpiece of the 2024 Democratic campaign, and looking ahead to that election, Democrats have decided Americans must be made to believe the Capitol riot was part of a massive conspiracy involving Trump, aiming to end democracy in the United States by overturning the 2020 election results via some means that no one is able to articulate. In fact, all that could have happened would have been Congress delaying its largely ceremonial blessing of the Electoral College results for a day or convening elsewhere on the afternoon of January 6.
There is no realistic scenario that could have changed anything that mattered, and no evidence of any national-scale conspiracy underlying the riot. It was just a bunch of angry people who got out of control for a few hours then went home to await eventual arrest. None of the rioters have been charged with treason or terrorism. Most have been charged with trespassing. None of the arrested claim they acted under any organized structure set in place by Trump or anyone else. In their trials, each basically gave the same explanation: things got out of hand.
After telling voters a fiction about the riots, in 2024 the Democrats will then have to explain how, after four years in power, they have not done much to bulk up democracy save whining about Republican (but not Democratic) gerrymandering, Republican (but not Democratic) poll watchers, and Republicans (but not Democrats like Stacey Abrams) not accepting election results. Voters will also have to buy into the Democratic delusion that all of the bad stuff they said Trump was going to do in office—LGBT concentration camps, war with Iran, fascism—will actually happen the next time. The Democratic line would make more sense if Trump had, for example, appeared bare chested at the Biden inauguration atop an M1 tank.
“Elect us to save democracy!” say the delusional Democrats, ignoring the reality that democracy is bumbling along pretty much as it was intended to.
Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.